When it comes to cross-training, Pilates is the secret weapon to winning. From professional athletes to weekend warriors, an effective Pilates workout can change your game completely! You can’t miss the latest press covering professional athletes and their dedication to the amazing workout that Pilates provides for the mind and the body. Originally called Contrology by its founder, Joseph Pilates described his regimen as, “Pilates is gaining the mastery of your mind over the complete control of your body.” This is very important for athletes and movers at any stage- from children just learning how to move their ever changing bodies to those that use their bodies to make a living- dancers, performers, athletes and models.
In competition, whether it be the NBA Finals, a pickup basketball game with your buddies or a 10K road race, our bodies become fatigued as muscles are called upon for aerobic and anaerobic purposes. Some of these same muscles are being used for support- posture, control, stability, balance and endurance. When the same muscles are doing both jobs- providing the action as well as the stability, fatigue sets in and sometimes bad habits or poor muscle patterning take over. This leads to a decrease in overall performance.
In a Pilates session, a student learns how to employ proper muscle patterns. I once had a 2:30 marathoner exclaim after taking a Mat Pilates class with me- that was the most I have ever sweat and worked while moving so little! We take away the “little cheats” and encourage the muscles to do their proper jobs. For instance, we will watch a students patterning in an exercise like the Bridge where in order for the hamstrings to properly fire without overdoing it, the student must ensure that the glutes and the lower rectus abdominus (abs!) are doing their jobs, otherwise, the hamstring will cramp from being asked to stabilize and mobilize the pelvis. As teachers, we watch the movement for articulation of the spine, proper movement of the pelvis from a natural position through a posterior to lift the pelvis and then landing at the top of the bridge with the hips extended, the glutes supporting, the lower belly working like crazy. Along the way up and down into the bridge, we look for the control of the obliques to keep the pelvis and the hips from shifting. Once the student has mastered the patterning, we add in challenges- single legs with gesture legs moving while keeping everything still- stability challenges, balls underneath the feet for more challenge- hands holding circles above chest. Each of these variations would be sport and athlete specific, taking into account strength discrepancies between sides and patterning needs for each athlete in their chosen sport.
Whatever level you are at, Pilates can help you to move better. According to my student, runner turned triathlete Melissa Burke, “Pilates was the single most important activity I could have engaged in to prepare me for open water swimming. On my road to triathlon, I am increasingly aware that all efficient athleticism starts with a strong core. No matter what activity I pursue (swimming, biking, running, paddle boarding, who knows what’s next), pilates will be a constant in my life.”
In working with several professional athletes and their coaches, I have developed such a respect for the manner in which these folks treat their own bodies and the bodies that they care for as coaches. While working on lunge and squat technique with a 10 year veteran professional athlete that had also played Division 1 in college, he was impressed that, in all of the training he had done, nobody had ever explained the importance of stabilizing the hips and caring for the lower back movement patterns when adding rotation into an exercise. We used Pilates to improve his performance throughout the off-season and I have very much enjoyed watching the incredible season he has had this winter!
Want to move better as an athlete at any level- find yourself a good, well-trained Pilates professional in your area!